The Philosophy of Erich Fromm

1138 Words5 Pages
Philosopher Erich Fromm was born in the early 20th century and could witness all of its major developments (Cherry). Not only did it bring technological progress and new ideologies, but also bitter fruits of war unseen by mankind before. He contemplated the motives behind aggression and violence which led him to the study of psychology and sociology (Cherry). Fromm’s last work, “To Have or to Be” (1976), is the culmination of his strive to find and explain the purpose of human life. He perceived our existence as being driven by either the having or the being mode and explained this idea by using psychological finds merged with sociological evidence.

To Fromm, the two modes of existence are inherent to our nature. The two conflicting strives – desire to possess and desire to unite with others – are both present in us. Humans do possess some purely biological desires, but at the same time they have the so-called “conditions of human nature” caused by their advanced intellect and self-awareness. These conditions create certain needs that humans want to satisfy, such as the need to overcome the feeling of loneliness. In the having mode the feeling of satisfaction comes from a blunt fulfillment of the desire to possess. However, such a desire is not only aimed at material things but also at such things as power, money, and other people. The opposite of the having mode is the being mode, in which people satisfy their needs by mutual sharing and loving. The having mode is destructive both to an individual and to society, whereas the being mode is all the opposite. To Fromm, most of the world, in particular Western civilization, is directed by the having mode. Consequently, it is on the brink of a catastrophe.

The book starts with a viv...

... middle of paper ...

...h as food, drink, shelter, and clothing, which cannot be given up due to our nature.

It is interesting how Fromm exposes his theory from a perspective of the two great world religions – Christianity and Judaism. Unfortunately, he does not include an analysis of Islam – the second most widespread religion. The examination of Quran and its comparison with the Bible and the Talmud would have been a valuable addition to the book.

Even more appealing is Fromm’s innovative understanding of religion. He calls it “any group-shared system of thought and action that offers the individual a frame of orientation and an object of devotion”(Fromm 135). In this sense, every society in the world has had a religion. He says that modern society is characterized by a new religion – the Industrial religion. It developed because of the way modern society is rooted in the having mode.
Open Document